Definition. A balk occurs when a pitcher makes an illegal motion on the mound that the umpire deems to be deceitful to the runner(s). As a result, any men on base are awarded the next base, and the pitch (if it was thrown in the first place) is waved off for a dead ball.
The rules state that a pitcher must step toward the base he throws to. It doesn’t matter if you’re set or not. If you’re on the rubber, that makes you a pitcher and you must step before throwing.
If the pitcher drops the ball while in contact with the rubber and the ball does not break the plane of the foul line, that is a balk. If the ball crosses the foul line, that is a wild pitch and the ball remains live.
(d) Official Baseball Rule 6.02(a)(3) requires the pitcher, while touching the pitcher’s plate, to step directly toward a base before throwing to that base. If a pitcher turns or spins off of his free foot without actually stepping, or if he turns his body and throws before stepping, it is a balk.
Rule 8.05(e) Comment: A quick pitch is an illegal pitch. Umpires will judge a quick pitch as one delivered before the batter is reasonably set in the batter’s box. With runners on base the penalty is a balk; with no runners on base, it is a ball. The quick pitch is dangerous and should not be permitted.
If the pitcher throws to second base, it is a balk because second base is unoccupied. It can sometimes be tricky to determine the base runner’s intent, but the final ruling will come down to what the umpire saw. If the umpire believes the runner was attempting to steal, the play is legal.
Once a pitcher steps off the pitching rubber, they are considered an infielder and they are allowed to do whatever they want. If they want to fake a throw to first base after stepping off the rubber, they are able to do that without breaking any rules.
If no runners are on base and the pitcher commits an otherwise balkable action, there generally is no penalty. However, delivering a quick return or pitching while off the rubber (which constitute balks when runners are on base) results in a ball being called with the bases empty.
When a balk is made on a pitch that is a fourth ball it shall be ruled the same as when the batter hits a balk pitch and is safe on a hit or error, provided all runners advance at least one base on the play.
However, if in the umpire’s judgment, the pitcher has thrown this ball to the shortstop in this case – legally or not, in such a manner that delays the game, then a BALK shall be called on the pitcher and ALL runners advance one base.
Batters still can step out of the box under several conditions, including a swinging strike, wild pitch, passed ball, pickoff play or meeting at the mound. Pitch clocks will not be used in the major leagues, although they will be used in selected minor-league games.
It’s not a balk because he’s not in his set position yet.
The pitcher does not have to step off the rubber to throw to a base. (You don’t want to throw to a base after stepping off. If the throw goes out of play it is a 2 base award. If the throw goes out of play when throw is from the rubber it is a 1 base award.)
A pitcher can not feint a throw to first base.
It can become monotonous when a pitcher makes throw after throw after throw to first base in a vain attempt to pick off a pesky baserunner. This rule will limit pitchers to just two “step offs” or pickoff attempts per plate appearance.
According to rule 8.01, ‘pitchers shall take the sign from the catcher while standing on the rubber’. Unless there is a quick pitch situation, where they setup off then back on quickly to pitch, there doesn’t seem to be any penalty for the pitch signs coming from the dugout.
One of the more uncommon, but still exciting, ways to end a baseball game is by the pitcher making one costly mistake with a balk. What is a balk off? A “balk-off”, also known as a “walk-off balk”, refers to a baseball team winning a game because of a balk on the pitcher.
An illegal pitch may be quick pitch (i.e. a pitch made before the batter is properly set in the batter’s box), a pitch made while the pitcher is not in contact with the pitching rubber, or one in which he takes an extra step while making his delivery.
In professional baseball, under Rule 6.02(a)(9), a balk occurs if the pitcher is standing on or astride of the pitching rubber without the ball. As play after a foul ball, hit batsman, or time out, must not resume until the pitcher is on the pitcher’s mound, the infielder cannot use these times to obtain the ball.
From the windup position, any natural movement associated with delivering the ball commits the pitcher to pitching the ball in a single, continuous motion. This includes any motion by hand, arm, or legs. Failing to deliver the pitch is a balk (with runners on base).